In this week’s blog post, I break down the stigma around periods and reveal what your monthly cycle could be trying to tell you. Also read on to find out what 4 major diseases having PMS puts you at risk of developing later on in life and the surprising side effects of the contraceptive pill you might not be aware of.
If you’re a client of mine - you’ll know that I’m not at all fazed when it comes to talking about bowel movements... it is part of my job after all! If you’re one of my regulars, you are probably sick of me constantly quizzing you about how often you go as well as the colour, appearance and consistency of your poop (yep... I am talking about poo!). After all, the state of your digestive health can be a HUGE indicator of overall health.
However, I’ve got another vital sign for you that you might have not considered as being an invaluable clue to your health…your period! For a lot women, our periods can be a bit of a nuisance. Many of us deal with monthly bouts of anxiety, tiredness, pain, PMS and even irregular periods, which, although may be considered ‘common’ symptoms, they can also suggest that something is up with your hormones.
In this article, I give a quick low-down on what things to look out for & what your period might be trying to tell you about your health.
1) Painful Periods
As a former sufferer of extremely painful periods (to the point where I would often vomit and pass out due to the pain), I know just how awful and debilitating they can be. How do I know if my period pain is not normal? Normal period pain is often caused by the release of inflammatory agents (known as prostaglandins) in the uterus. Although a little bit of cramping at the beginning of your period can be normal, super painful cramps that interfere with daily activities can indicate an underlying medical problem such as endometriosis. Period pain should respond to over-the-counter-pain relief. If it doesn’t and you often find yourself clock watching until you’re allowed to take your next dose, it might be worth going to see your health practitioner to rule out any other causes.
TOP TIP: One of the best ways to reduce prostaglandins which can cause period pain is by cutting down on diary. Dairy contains an element called A1 casein which can increase inflammation levels. Also increasing your intake of linoleic acid can help too – the best sources include salmon, sardines, flaxseeds and sunflower seeds.
2) Heavy Periods
The level of bleeding to have during your period can vary. But how much blood loss is normal? If you are having to change a pad or tampon hourly (or if you frequently leak in the night), the chances are that your periods are heavier than normal. If conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids and PCOS have been ruled out, it might be worth getting some further tests to check for a condition called oestrogen dominance which can cause your womb lining to build up (& therefore shed) more than it should. Dark, red clots bigger than a 10p piece can also suggest there is an issue with oestrogen dominance. Unfortunately, advanced hormone tests such as DUTCH aren’t currently available on the NHS but please feel free touch if you’d like to discuss about getting to the root cause of your hormonal imbalance with functional testing.
TOP TIP: Support your liver to help break down excess oestrogen levels by increasing green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, bok choy and cabbage.
3) Brown period blood/spotting
Brown blood/discharge right before your period can be a regular occurrence in a lot of women. Often this is just old blood didn’t make it out of your uterus during your last period but it can also be caused by low progesterone levels. Healthy progesterone levels are extremely important for fertility and regular ovulation so you want to make sure that your periods are regular if you’re trying to conceive. Luckily, you can optimise your progesterone levels through natural supplements and also diet. Spotting mid-cycle can happen when ovulation occurs due to a sudden drop in oestrogen and partial shedding of the uterine lining. This usually happens because progesterone hasn’t yet kicked in which keeps the lining in place.
TOP TIP: Speak to your Doctor about getting your progesterone and oestrogen levels tested as well as a full thyroid panel so you might want to get these tested privately). They will also be able to rule out any spotting that is due to more serious conditions such as fibroids or endometriosis. High oestrogen levels and low thyroid function can cause low progesterone levels which are typically associated with brown spotting.
4) Irregular/absent periods
Often find yourself in the dark about when your period is going start? Suffering from irregular periods is a fairly clear indication that your hormones have become out of whack. However, less serious causes that can interfere with regular periods include stress, too much exercise or being underweight. If you’re not getting your period at all and/or have ruled out pregnancy as a causative factor, you might want to consider tracking your period on a monthly basis to track any changes to your period as well as common symptoms.
TOP TIP: My favourite apps for tracking your period are MyFlo and Natural Cycles – both are available on the app store.
5) Pre-menstrual Syndrome (PMS)
PMS is one of the most common conditions suffered by women today. PMS is a term used to describe a collection of symptoms during the 2 weeks before your period. PMS symptoms are not normal, despite what Western society tells us. If you get cravings or bowel changes right before your period, that’s often a sign that your digestive system isn’t working properly. If it’s breast tenderness, headaches or irritability – your liver might be struggling to get rid of your excess hormones.
What are the effects of PMS long term?
There is some research to suggest that women who experience untreated hormone imbalances such as PMS and infertility, prior to menopause have a higher risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, dementia, cancer and heart disease, later in life. One study in particular has revealed that women can improve their hormonal imbalance with diet and lifestyle.
For more information on PMS and tips on more natural solutions to PMS, check out my FREE eBook by signing up to my monthly newsletter here.
So, what does the ‘perfect period’ look like?
· A period that comes between every 23-35 days (at roughly the same day each cycle)
· A bleed that lasts from 5-7 days that’s not too heavy
· The colour – bright, cranberry red
· Pain-free with no PMS or spotting
· The bleed is completely natural and not a result of having a 7-day break on the pill
What about if you’re on the contraceptive pill? Let me just set the record straight - I’m not against the pill... when it is being used correctly – and used solely for birth control. I do not however, believe it should be the go-to solution to ‘regulate’ your monthly cycle…it actually does far from it! After all, these synthetic hormones actually tell your body to stop ovulating, a natural bodily function which is actually really important for your health. Did you know the most common reason why women either stop or change the pill is the side effects it has on mental health?Not to mention its links with low libido, hair loss, vision problems, migraines, painful periods, mood swings, breast cancer, blood clots, thrush and a whole host of vitamin deficiencies. Let me just clarify - I’m all about educating women so they are able to make an informed decision about which option is best for them and will always support clients nutritionally who chose to remain on the pill through diet and natural supplements.
Still not getting the answers you want?
If you’re still struggling to get to the root cause of your period problems and you want to take control of your own health, please get it touch! If you’re looking for real solutions that get to the root of your problems, not just more medications that don’t really give you your health (or body!) back, then you're in the right place. Book in for a free 30-minute discovery call and let’s chat about working together.